Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


June 18, 2013

Play ball! Boys of summer are back

— Baseball fans across the region can rejoice. The 2013 Appalachian League season is finally here. And what a unique and welcomed sporting, tourism and economic development engine it is for our region.

That’s because Mercer County has the unique distinction of being home to not one, but two, Minor League Baseball teams. And between the Bluefield Blue Jays and the Princeton Rays, the two teams pump an estimated $7 million in revenue into the regional economy each summer.

The players, coaches and staff members of each team aren’t paid by a local entity, but they do spend the money received from their parent organizations at local grocery stores, department stores, malls, hotels and restaurants. That’s new revenue coming into Mercer County each summer, according to Keith Circle of the Princeton-Mercer County Chamber of Commerce.

The long-awaited 2013 season begins Thursday at 7 p.m. with the Bluefield Blue Jays playing the Greenville Astros at Bowen Field in Bluefield. The Princeton Rays will open their season on the road at Danville at 7 p.m. Their first home game is Sunday, June 23, at 6:05 p.m.

However, area fans will have a chance to meet the players in both Bluefield and Princeton today. A “Meet the Blue Jays” event will be held at Mountaineer Lanes in Bluefield today from 12 to 2 p.m., and a “Meet the Rays” program will be held at Hunnicutt Stadium today in Princeton from 5:15 p.m. to 6 p.m. The Rays also will hold a kids club picnic today from 6 to 7 p.m.

The Appalachian League provides clean, family-friendly entertainment, in our own backyard. However, keeping the seats filled with fans at both Bowen Field and Hunnicutt Stadium has been a challenge in recent years. We hope this won’t be the case again this year. If we don’t support what we have, we run the risk of losing it.

We urge all baseball fans to come out to Bowen Field and Hunnicutt Stadium this summer and show their support for their respective teams. Cheer them on as they attempt to win the Mercer Cup, and ultimately the Appalachian League title. We need to pack both Bowen Field and Hunnicutt Stadium to capacity.

If you have never been to a Minor League Baseball game before, we can’t think of a better time to start than now. For those who can’t afford a vacation in the continued tough economic times, we can’t think of a better getaway than a nine-inning night at the ballpark. And it is hard to beat the value. General admission to both Bowen Field and Hunnicutt Stadium is still only $5. That includes admission to a professional baseball game where you will get to see the stars of tomorrow playing today in Bluefield and Princeton.

The Appalachian League is a win-win for fans and the region as a whole.

Welcome home Rays and Jays. Now it’s time for the fun to begin.

Play ball!

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